The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 – The UK’s green list and Malta

Wednesday, 9 June 2021, 06:56 Last update: about 10 days ago

There was an element of disappointment last week when Malta was again left out of the United Kingdom’s green list. When the original list published in early May excluded Malta, there was hope and expectations that Malta would be included when the situation was revised.

But it was not to be.

Until a few hours before the official announcement on Thursday, British media were indicating that Malta would have been added to the list of countries considered by the British authorities to be safe. After all, these past few weeks have been good for Malta, seeing that the number of new cases remained low and that Malta reached herd immunity through its vaccination campaign.

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But, when the time came, the British authorities did not put Malta on the list of countries that would have made it easier for Britons to travel to and from without the inconvenience of having to remain in quarantine upon their return.

This has frustrated Maltese hoteliers, given that the UK is Malta’s biggest tourism market. The hotel industry was confident that June would have seen a sharp climb in tourist numbers, with the UK contributing to this.

The Maltese government has made it a point to be proactive in the tourism industry as from 1 June, in the hope that such an important pillar of our economy could start to recover after a long period of difficulty because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The UK government’s decision to keep Malta off the green list is a setback to these plans.

Having said this, the UK government’s decision has eased worries from the medical aspect. Over the past few weeks the UK has seen a resurgence of the virus, particularly the more contagious Indian variant, and there were concerns that a sudden influx of British nationals to Malta would have increased the risk of a rise in the numbers in Malta too.

The fact that Malta is “not fully open” to Britons has somewhat lowered these concerns. Nonetheless, it is hoped that Malta will eventually find its place on the UK’s green list when the next revision is announced. Maybe by that time the situation in Britain would have improved and, here in Malta, the vaccine campaign would have edged closer or even reached the new target that has been set.

The Malta Independent on Sunday has reported that the Maltese government has established a new target – that of having 80 per cent of the community vaccinated against Covid-19. With 70 per cent already vaccinated or having at least had the first dose, the health authorities are now pushing for 80 per cent of the population to get the jab. We are set to reach 77% next week, and there is confidence that this could go up further to 80 per cent in the days that follow.

On a political note, Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has blamed the Maltese government for the UK’s decision. This is a somewhat blinkered view of the situation. If Malta had been the only country left out of the UK’s green list, such comments would have had some sort of justification. But Malta has not been singled out by the UK. It is part of a much larger group of countries which have not been given the green light.

So far, we have not fallen into the trap of turning Covid-19 into a political football. It would be wrong, very wrong, to start now.

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